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Ad:tech Roundtable: State of the Media and Advertising Industry

Today at Adtech’s roundtable on the state of the industry, Tina Sharkey, Chairman and Global President of BabyCenter; Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction; David Morris, Chief Client Officer of CBS Interactive; and Rob Master, North American Media Director of Unilever all spoke. The discussion was moderated by Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of IAB.

Major issues: What lessons for the media industry are being learned from this election?

Rob Norman — "From a media mix model point of view, this is a fascinating time. There are three things you have to keep eye on: geography — where they are and how to find them, technology, and the value of integrity. My sense is that Obama has fused geography, tech and integrity with great effect."

David Morris: Morris emphasizes that the value of the web is being able to interact directly with an audience: "One thing I’ve learned – not everything in your campaign goes well. If things go wrong, you have to go to the Web and deal with it- candidates went to web discussed what problem was and corrected it. Brands can learn from that."

Tina Sharkey — She acknowledged both candidates, but particularly Obama, as having done a fantastic job in the digital media space. "If you look at candidates as marketers and media planners, they’ve done a phenomenal job at activating conversation and joining conversation."

Market spending for interactive media is unfair given the percentage of time consumers spend using interactive media. Do you see that balance redressing itself over the next year?

Rob Master: "Unilever feels very confident about the numbers in the digital space. But if consumers decide they want to get off the net and watch more TV, we’ll follow them. If the digital space continues to expand, our investment will too."

Rob Norman: "I think the fair share issue is phony because we have to distinguish between what is legitimately media time and what is time people spend doing other activities." Much of the time people spend on line, they are not receptive to advertising. "I suspect the share is far fairer than people would have you believe."

People like to consume short form media online. How do you see this consumption pattern affecting marketing?

Tina Sharkey: BabyCenter’s email and newsletter consumption is increasing. "Because of the barrage of things out there we are breaking through into a diff channel. Marketers are coming to us for a mix of things – targeting is getting much more specific, and the mix of that is getting much bigger than it has ever been in past".

We’ve already got signals that, regardless of who the new administration is, there will be a more pro regulatory environment in Washington related to business. How should the advertising industry be thinking?

David Morris: We have to be smart as an industry – if we are upfront to our consumers and explain clearly and concisely how we are collecting information and what we do with it, that’s okay. The concern is targeting people under the age of 13, health, financial status — sensitive areas. We need to self regulate – it’s important that we don’t cross consumer trust." He emphasized that the range of choice and content available is a "great service" paid for by advertising. "If we are regulated… we will not be able to provide this. We need to self regulate but also explain to Washington that we are providing a service."

Rob Norman: The high minded answer is that "regulation needs to identify the harm against which its regulating before it regulates. My sense is that industry has pretty good track record against keeping ppl away from harm." The practical approach is that it’s easy to ask the question: do you think its good idea for advertisers to track your behavior and send you messages based on this. The answer, says Norman, is obviously no. "All people in the value chain are not perfectly aligned in this area. There are dubious motivations by some of parties involved."

Does a message on a branded site hold more value on less branded sites?

Rob Master: In this day and age, on a scale perspective, having a strong relationship with the publisher is critical. To that point, context — where that message is delivered — is important.

David Morris: Every site says they have premium content. You need to define premium content. We have premium inventory and less premium inventory. It is up to us to monetize as much inventory as possible. Just like today when you’re managing a financial portfolio and need a diverse mix to have money safe, the same way large publishers need different investments depending on where the market is."